The Big Short

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This is a film that focuses on separate plot lines that show how the great recession came about from three different angles. One of them is related to Michael Burry, who runs the hedge fund Scion Capital. He is terrible at dealing with people, but really good at market analysis. This results in him noticing how the markets were warped from where they should be and foreseeing a crash he couldn’t get any of his investors to believe was coming. Another is related to Jared Vennett, an incredibly cynical partner at Front Point Partners, which works with Goldman Sachs. He goes hands on in looking into the market and discovers that the bonds known as collateralized debt obligations being offered were no where near as strong as they were rated due to various conflicts of interest, resulting in a market basically being help up on lies. The last perspective involves Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley, two young and inexperienced investors that are known as the Brownfield Fund, who see the crash coming, and profit off of it, but in doing so completely lose faith in the system.

***

This film was very well made, in that it’s a film focused on finance and one that actually goes into a decent amount of depth on why things occurred and how they work, but it still manages to remain exciting and interesting throughout even for those that aren’t particular interested in the subject matter due to good writing that conveys things at a decent pace without any info dumping. It adds a good amount of drama to each story line, with them being intertwined in a way that none of the stories get boring, and also adds a lot of human presence to a story that could otherwise be simply about regulations, money, and numbers. The flip side of that is that it conveys a lot less than a proper documentary could in the same amount of time, but it manages to be a lot more interesting in doing so. It also helped that it looked really good and had great music.

A film about the housing market crash of 2007 that manages to be quite engrossing.

 

8/10

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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After the fall of the Empire, Luke seeked to rebuild the Jedi order, but after a series of events went missing. Meanwhile, the remnants of the empire rose once again as the First Order, seeking to crush the New Republic. On a mission on Jakku to obtain a map to Luke Skywalkers supposed location, Poe Dameron is captured by Kylo Ren, a sith apprentice at the front lines of the First Order. Poe’s droid BB-8 escapes however with said map. Aboard the Stormtroopers ship, a stormstrooper finds himself unable to continue acting as a stormtrooper and helps Poe escape, escaping along side him, and on the way being given the name Finn. However, after they crash, with Finn being unsure of whether Poe survived or not, he begins his quest to complete Poe’s mission of bringing the information in BB-8 to the Resistance. Meanwhile, a woman named Rey, a scavenger who was left there by her family but is adamant they’ll return, finds BB-8, and eventually encounters Finn. In a strange turn of events, they end up working together and hijacking the Millennium Falcon in search of a way to get information to the Resistance. However, time is running out, as the new Sith Lord, Snokes, has created a weapon even greater than the Death Star, and is ready to use it.

***

This film unlike the prequel trilogy, felt incredibly similar in tone and style to the original trilogy. Rather, it was very clear the film was heavily leveraging its connections to the main series, with a heavy emphasis on similar scenes, plot events, plot structure, and various references, making sure to emphasize every time an old character is reintroduced. The plot itself felt somewhat like another A New Hope, a pretty good implementation of such, but still not very original. This is fine for this film, as it was important to make clear which direction the films would be going in and to return confidence in the franchise after the prequel trilogy, which I didn’t particularly hate but acknowledge the flaws within. So from that point of view that’s all fine I suppose. However, I would like them to branch out in much more original directions in future films.

In terms of the new set of main characters, they were okay. Not as good as the sets in the previous movies, including the prequels, but still good in their own way in terms of being original and interesting. However, a major issue is balance in terms of protagonists, in that Ren takes on too many roles. She’s both a Jedi and the pilot of the Falcon, so taking after Luke and Han. That’s a bit much, and doesn’t really leave anything for Finn to be. Hence, for the entire purpose film Finn didn’t really have anything that made him stand out, he was simply cannon fodder that ended up in a couple weird situations. And Poe is apparently the other main character, though he doesn’t seem to have much of a role in this movie beyond the beginning and end, thus feeling very lacking. Now, moving on to the antagonists, they were they awful, the siths especially. Kylo Ren I wanted so much to be good, because I’ve always liked the villains in the Star Wars series, especially the sith apprentice Vader, from Episode III-VI. But Kylo is just so pathetically lame. He’s wearing the mask simply because the entirety of his motivations seem to be to follow in the footsteps of Vader, which is somewhat sad. Hell, I’ll even give him a pass on being a Vader wannabe. But his character is such a trainwreck. It’s like an angry know it all teen who hates their parents got force powers. He’s the worst type of arrogant, the type that is genuinely competent, but ends up failing anyway. He is the first genuinely lame force user as far as I know. There was a pretty obvious point, where I thought that he would finally overcome all this and develop further as a character, but despite everything, he’s still exactly the same. Near the end, there was something mentioned about him completing his training, which I really hope results in a pretty major character change, because he desperately needs it. Not sure I can stand a complete set of films with a sith apprentice like him. Snook we got very little of, as we did Palpatine in VI, but I’m desperately hoping he’ll be a stronger character than Kylo.

The beginning of a new Star Wars trilogy, that feels incredibly close to the original trilogy, too close in fact, with the exception of a couple major failings.

7/10

The Martian

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Mark, an astronaut on the first mission to Mars, is separated from his comrades as they escape before a storm, and due to technical failures on his sensors is left for dead. He somehow manages to survive, and make it back to their command center, but is stuck in the unfortunate situation of being the only person on Mars, with limited resources and absolutely no way to communicate with Earth. However, with a tremendous amount of ingenuity by him and scientists at NASA, he works towards making it home.

***

The Martian takes a very different approach to Sci-Fi, being very rooted in reality, not dealing with events and aspects that don’t really seem to have any chance of happening without world changing break through, but rather something much more grounded, that may well happen in the next twenty years. It hits very close to home while still being tremendously amazing. A key aspect to that is that the problem isn’t light years away, its bringing a single man home, and the problems aren’t tremendous or overtly complex either, primarily revolving around maintaining shelter, establishing communications, and keeping up a food supply. It’s all about problem solving and using everything you know even under pressure. It makes astronauts look truly amazing, in that it doesn’t make them seem larger than life, but rather incredibly courageous scientists. The plot is essentially a series of problems that get solved one after the other, eventually bringing him home, all of which is paced excellently, with a great amount of suspense, though obviously everyone knows he’s going to make it in the end. Mark himself is also a great character, tremendously optimistic even in the most stressful situations, with great wit and humor adding a great lighthearted aspect to the film.

A film that conveys how amazing human ingenuity can be.

9/10

Give NASA more funding plox.

Bridge of Spies

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James B. Donovan is chosen to represent Rudolf Abel, a man charged with treason for spying on behalf of the Soviet Union. However, contrary to what people expected of him, which was just throwing something out there for the sake of maintaining appearances, Donovan actually does his job to the best of his ability, even managing to avoid the death penalty for Abel on the basis of future use as a bargaining chip to use in case any US personnel are captured by the USSR. This opportunity comes to arise when Gary Powers, a U-2 pilot, is captured. Donovan thought that his involvement with the entire affair was over, however he is the one that the Soviet Union ends up contacting, and hence despite having no involvement, he is the one that ends up going to Berlin on behalf of the CIA to negotiate the trade.

***

The movie features two phases, the first is the court case, which is relatively short and acts like a sort of prologue, and the second is the actual negotiations and prisoner swap, which is the core of the film. The court case actually felt somewhat slow despite its length, however the rest moved very fast. It was a good look into the history surrounding the period, especially highlighting the differences and similarities between the USA and USSR, and it was also pretty interesting in terms of watching Donovan step up to the plate and do quite a bit more than was expected of him. Beyond that, though the plot was told reasonably well with some solid tension at points, overall it was a pretty standard flick through and through lacking any especially interesting characters or plot elements. The cinematography and soundtrack were decent.

A film that is a good historical timepiece relating to espionage during the Cold War, but isn’t all that interesting beyond that. 

 

7/10

The Peanuts Movie

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Charlie Brown is seen by many as pretty pathetic and is strongly lacking confidence in himself due to the fact that nothing ever seeming to go as the wants it to. However, when a new student, a little red haired girl, comes to his school, he tries to make an effort to change to impress her, though as always things never work out as he planned.

***

The Charlie Brown movie is exactly what I expected it to be, and that’s great because it was incredibly funny and touching.. It was very true to the characters, especially Charlie Brown and Snoopy, but everyone’s character showed through to at least some degree. The plot was incredibly fitting in showing off the core of Charlie Brown, in that he’s a character that may be fail often for ridiculous reasons, but has a good heart. It was really simplistic in a sense, but it just fit so well. And the side story with Snoopy was interesting as well and I think helped with preventing the pacing from getting too slow. The animation quality and style were great, being different from normal animated movies but fitting quite well, the soundtrack was also fitting.

Exactly what one would expect from a well made Charlie Brown movie.

8/10

I really hope we get another one, though I’m reading that may not happen for a while.

Also, what was even the little red haired girls name? Good grief.